Home Nutrition Are Protein Shakes Good Or Bad For You?

Are Protein Shakes Good Or Bad For You?

Written by Jane Summerfield

Millions upon millions of people today are particularly interested in becoming healthy – they want to fight pandemics; they want to stay young for as long as they can, and they want fit and attractive bodies.

Just in a nutshell, in 2018, the health industry was worth $8.45 trillion.

This year it is estimated to be over the $10 trillion mark [1].

If you are one who has dabbled in the health and fitness industry, you will know all about protein shakes, powders, and supplements.

The protein world is also a multi-billion dollar industry.

But as Kristi Wempen, a nutritionist at Mayo Clinic, says, “contrary to all the hype that everyone needs higher protein intake; most Americans get twice as much as they need.”

And weight loss surgeon Garth David says in his book, Proteinaholic, that most physicians have never really examined people with protein deficiencies.

It’s because they, just simply by eating an adequate supply of daily calories, are getting enough protein.

Here’s What Happens When You Drink Protein

 First, how much protein does a person need on a daily basis?

Your protein needs will change as you go through life.

And right now, your protein needs will probably look quite different to members of your family, your neighbor, or friends.

Your protein requirements will vary depending on the activities you are involved with, or whether you are trying to build muscle.

Check out the recommended dietary intake for protein per day

  • Women: 46 grams of protein daily
  • Men: 56 grams per day
Where Do You Get Your Protein From?

You get protein from foods like yogurt, eggs, some plants, and meat.

If you choose to supplement your meals with protein shakes, it’s important to remember that you won’t need all that much protein powder or shakes to meet your daily needs.

But still, there are those that do need to consume higher amounts of protein

So why has protein endured as the supposed holy grail of nutrients – millions are downing the powders and shakes more than ever before?

The German chemist, Justus von Liebig, was one of the first to study and identify macronutrients. He came to regard protein as “the only true nutrient.”

Today, protein consumption has remained a major component of marketing campaigns and nutritional advice ever since.

Around this time, John Harvey Kellogg, a staunch vegetarian, set out to redefine the traditional American meal.

The Kellogg’s invented their famous breakfast cereals, granola, nut butter, and other nutty treats.

They assured people that they could forget about a heavy diet of meat and get their high protein requirements from plant foods.

The Kellogg’s said that “Beans, peas, lentils, and nuts afford an ample proportion of the protein elements which are essential for blood-making and tissue building.”

Research in 2003 revealed that high-protein diets were excellent for weight loss

So you can imagine how popular protein supplement, shakes, and powders have become.  

And the rekindling of protein quickly returned protein to its superstar status in the early 1900s days.

That’s when the famed “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution” book came out in 1982 – a best seller, selling over 10 million copies. It promoted high fat, high protein, and low carb eating.

Fast track to 2022…

Protein shakes and protein powders are the rage – but do you really need them?

Not everybody needs to increase their daily protein intake or drink protein shakes for their diets.

But they sure can help when you aren’t getting sufficient protein in your diet.

So “Are protein shakes good or bad?

The answer, in a nutshell, is yes, they are very good for you if you need them for certain circumstances.

Let’s Look At Instances That Protein Powder Can Be Good
  • For instance, if you are starting a new workout regime and it requires much input and energy. You will need the extra protein to build your muscles.
  • Maybe you are a young teenager and still growing. Protein shakes may help with growth spurts, particularly if you are out and about, and involved in many sports.
  • You might be recovering from an injury; you need the extra nutrients to keep you fit and strong, particularly for recovery. Did you know that protein shakes can actually help to heal wounds? [2] 
  • For old people who can’t eat a balanced diet, then the protein shakes are a miracle-in-disguise for them. They ensure that even when they can’t eat, they can keep up their strength through the nutrient-rich protein shakes.
  • For those who eat vegan or vegetarian diets, drinking protein shakes, particularly plant-based protein shakes, can fill in all the nutrient gaps.

If they are so good for a person, why could they possibly be bad?

From losing weight to weight gain and building muscle [3], we have seen how protein shakes can really benefit the body.

But usually, with all medications, and even with natural products, there are often going to be side effects.

And protein shakes are not the exception. Let’s take a look at what the side effects of drinking protein shakes are: 

  • You could experience gas, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. This does seem to happen more with whey proteins and it can be due to lactose intolerance [4]. You could switch to non-dairy protein powders to alleviate this problem. 
  • Runny and stuffy nose, swelling, and a hives rash could occur if you are allergic to cow’s milk. If you do happen to be allergic to cow’s milk, you could opt for non-dairy protein powder.
  • Say now you are not eating any real foods, but are drinking only protein shakes. Then you can be sure that you will be missing out on some important nutrients that don’t make up protein shakes. For example, if you had a protein shake in place of having eggs, you would be missing out on some other fantastic nutrients such as omega 3.
  • Not all, but some protein shakes can be high in extra calories and sugar [5]. You need to check the product labels to know what you are eating. 
  • Because protein shakes and powders are dietary supplements, it means the manufacturers can regulate their powders and shakes. One bit of research found that protein powders can contain heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants in them [6]. It is imperative that you choose your protein shakes from reputable companies.

Are there any health benefits to drinking protein shakes?

Pros Of Protein Shakes 

There are certainly health benefits of protein shakes and they include the following:

1) Weight management

When you eat protein-rich foods or supplements, you usually feel fuller for longer.

When you feel full, you tend to choose smaller portion sizes and snack less frequently.

This helps with healthy weight maintenance, and it’s great for sports nutrition.

One 2017 report [7] said that when you supplement with whey protein, you can reduce your body weight and total fat mass if you are overweight or obese.

2) It can help to reduce health issues

Ingesting protein can help to improve cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and help with cardiovascular disease as well [8].

3) Muscle growth

Protein is essential if you want to increase muscle mass. Plenty of gym enthusiasts and athletes down protein shakes and consume supplements because they believe that they will bulk them up after workouts and strength training.

One report from 2018 suggested that protein supplements improve muscle mass and size significantly in adults who performed resistance exercise training [9].

4) Recovery after exercise

Protein is known to contribute to muscle growth and enhance physical performance.

Those in the fitness industry such as athletes and bodybuilders know how effective protein is at repairing damaged tissues and muscles.

Athletes and bodybuilders drink protein shakes to speed up recovery from the pain of used muscles after workouts and sporting activities.

There are many studies that report that taking a high protein diet after exercise can aid in muscle recovery.

Muscle damage is reduced and muscle performance and muscle protein synthesis are improved.

5) Added nutrition

Often people, for whatever reasons, find it difficult to meet their protein daily requirements.

This is where protein shakes, powders, and supplements offer such an easy, but effective solution to the problem.

And when it comes to weightlifters, athletes, older adults, and those with chronic illnesses, often these people even need to exceed their general protein need.

6) What a relief to have protein shakes when people can’t eat or won’t eat whole foods

Perhaps you have a little child who just clamps his mouth shut at whole foods.

What about you have old parents who are sick and dying, and you are beside yourself about how to still keep them nourished.

Then you will be only too thankful that protein shakes work as a supplemental protein that they can just enjoy like a glass of goodness. 

Cons of Protein Shakes

1) Sugar

Protein shakes can vary a lot in their sugar content. Some won’t have any sugar in them at all.

Some others might have alternative sweeteners added to them. Other shakes will have just enough sugar to offer you a tempting sweetness.

Always check the labels. Because there will be some products that have included a lot of sugar in them, like more than 20 grams a serving.

Sugar is linked to lots of health problems related to high blood sugar, like diabetes, risk of obesity, and inflammation.

They will be excessively sweet and then take away from the benefits of the shakes – let alone all the extra calories you will be taking in.

2) Often you might not even know what all the ingredients are

That means you must know the brand and trust the label when you buy your protein shakes.

Otherwise, you will never know what is in the product, and that can make the problem serious.

It might even mean that the supplements aren’t regulated by the manufacturers.

So remember, you need to trust the label. Some manufacturers will try and cut corners with inferior products other than what they advertise.

And then you have to think about contamination – like toxic chemicals could be in your protein shake.

If you want to be sure of what you are getting in your protein shakes, check that the shake has been tested by a third party.

Then you have a fairly clear idea of what is and what isn’t in your product.

3) They’re not a whole-food product

Wholesome whole foods such as legumes, veggies, fruit, meat, and seafood are always your first choice in your diet.

They will supply you with the necessary nutrients you need in your diet, giving you a balance of all the right amounts of protein, carbs, and fat.

Remember that protein shakes aren’t like whole foods. They are refined and often additives have been added.

That certainly doesn’t make them less useful, though, from time to time.

4) They can promote unhealthy eating habits

Sure, using a protein shake instead of a meal every now and then can help you to lose weight but it may affect your healthy eating pattern.

When you are short on time, they are wonderful to have ready on tap.

But this shouldn’t become the pattern that you follow every day over a long period of time.

Because then you are at risk of nutritional deficiencies and creating bad habits.

For example, you may find yourself eating more junk foods like protein bars instead of enjoying a variety of foods from natural protein sources.

5) They might cause allergies

Many foods, and that includes protein shakes, can cause allergic reactions. 

Protein shakes consist of typical allergen-type ingredients that people suffer from such as eggs, cow’s milk, and soy.

But you just have to find the types of powdered proteins and shakes that you will not be sensitive to.

6) You could be getting too many essential amino acids

There is no doubt that you need to get adequate protein amount in your diet. The fact remains that protein is important.

But taking in more protein than you need doesn’t mean you will double up on the benefits. It may even make you gain weight too much.

Increasing your protein isn’t going to help you much if you are already getting plenty of protein from your diet.

Conclusion 

Protein powder and shakes are very popular nutritional supplements.

Protein is an essential macronutrient – it helps build muscle, repairs tissue, and makes hormones and enzymes.

And if you use protein shake for weight loss, you are going to see how it benefits you and tones your muscles.

Protein powders have, over the years, continued to be beneficial supplements for all kinds of people, from bodybuilders to athletes, old people, small children, vegans, and vegetarians.

That’s because they are a very convenient source of complete protein and often contain other nutrients.

Not everyone needs additional protein, though. Those people who eat a diet rich in dairy, fish, meat, and eggs and who don’t do intense working out are not likely to need to take protein supplements.

But if you really do want to, choose the high-quality ones. It’s very easy to see just why protein shakes are so popular.

They’re simple and highly convenient, and they support your health; fitness, and weight loss goals.

You just have to be careful to choose right and to take them right – then you might just get a bull’s eye!

References

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